An Exercise In Trivial Pursuits

Fatshion, Food & Frivolities – Life in Las Vegas & Singapore


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Meatless Monday: Braised Tofu & Eggs

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Hello! I hope some of you have tried my recipes! Please tell me if you do and if you have ways of improving them.

This is a modified recipe that I used a long time ago to make braised pork belly in Soy Sauce (Tau Yew Bak). I no longer eat pork but still crave that slightly caramelly taste of this sauce. Today’s recipe is essentially Vegetarian Tau Yew Bak or Tau Yew Bak no Bak. Heehee… *Tau Yew is soy sauce. Bak refers to flesh or meat (in this instance, pork).

This braising method is easy and fuss free. I’m using dark soy sauce because it produces a darker sauce though milder in taste (less salty) compared to light soy. But otherwise it’s about the same as regular soy sauce. If you don’t have dark soy, regular soy will do too. Add a total of 5 tablespoons of light soy instead. It’ll be equally salty but lighter in colour.

What I like about this modified recipe is that, it’s fast and easy to make, yet still satisfies my craving. I love braise sauces over plain steamed rice – my kind of comfort food.IMG_2531

Braised Tofu & Eggs (Vegetarian Tau Yew Bak)

Serves 2 -4. Prep time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 45 minutes.

3 cups water

4 hard boiled eggs

4 garlic cloves (smashed with the back of a knife to release flavour)

4 tbsp dark soy sauce

3 tbsp light soy sauce

3 tbsp brown sugar

Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 block of tofu (cut into small rectangular pieces)

1 stick of cinnamon

2 star anise

3 cloves

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Method:

1. Heat up a pot with 3 cups of water and bring to boil then lower heat.

2. Add tofu, garlic, soy sauces, brown sugar, soy sauce, cinnamon, cloves and star anise. Then stir  gently to mix everything.

3. Bring to a boil then add peeled hard boiled eggs.

4. Lower the heat to medium and braise for 15 minutes.

5. Turn the heat to lowest for another 25 – 30 minutes.

6. Serve with steamed rice.

And there you have it – vegetarian tau yew bak aka braised tofu and eggs!


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Meatless Monday: Cabbage & Potatoes Stir Fry

IMG_0558This is one of my favourite things to order at the Economy Rice stalls back in Singapore (otherwise known as point-point rice because you point at the side dishes you want to add to your plain steamed rice). This cabbage and potatoes stir-fry comes in different variations, most I’ve eaten have dried shrimp for flavouring and some have glass noodles for added texture. No matter how you do it, cabbage and potatoes are all you need. It’s also great that cabbage is really cheap (much cheaper than cauliflower and broccoli which T loves).

I’m sharing this recipe because T mentioned that he only liked cabbage “so-so” but he thought that I “managed to make cabbage really tasty”. To him, cabbage is usually a filler, something you add in food when you want to fill space and tummies without spending too much money. That made me happy because this dish is so good with plain steamed rice that I can eat a lot a lot a lot of it. Also, it makes good leftovers – just pop your leftover cabbage/potato stir-fry and steamed rice into a box, store it in the fridge together, and when you zap it in the microwave again, the flavours would have all mixed in. Mmmmm… I do love a good gravy over plain rice!

Cabbage & Potatoes Stir Fry

Serves 4. Prep Time: 3 mins. Cooking time: 15 mins.

1 large potato

8 cups of chopped cabbage (raw chopped up volume)

2 tablespoons of minced garlic

3 tablespoons of cooking oil

1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetarian oyster sauce (mushroom flavoured)

1 cup water

1/2 tablespoon corn starch

Method:

1. Pull out 5-6 cabbage leaves, roll them up to look like a burrito, then slice them vertically and then horizontally. Repeat until you have the desired amount of cabbage (2 cups worth of chopped cabbage leaves = 1 regular serving after cooking).

2. Scrub the potato and rinse before cutting them up into short, stubby french-fry looking strips. (Don’t make them too thick or it’ll take too long to cook)

3. Heat up cooking oil and put in the potato strips. Fry the potato on high heat for about 5 minutes till it starts changing colour (a little translucent).

4. Turn down to medium heat. Add all the minced garlic into the pan and continue stir-frying/tossing until slightly golden brown.

5. Add all the chopped cabbage into your pan (my 11-inch Jamie Oliver by T-fal stir-fry pan can just about hold everything and is filled to the brim.)

6. Carefully stir the cabbage, potato and garlic. (I use the fold and mix method.)

7. Once the contents of the pan is well mixed, add the vegetarian oyster sauce and stir-fry again. Turn up to high heat.

8. Mix 1/2 tablespoon corn starch with 1 cup water, then add to the vegetables. Stir-fry and mix again. The cabbage should have softened and be half its former volume by now.

9. Take a lid (doesn’t have to be a matching lid), cover the pan and let the veggies steam. Turn down the heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes. Lift the lid every 30 seconds to stir.

10. Remove from heat and serve with steaming hot plain rice.

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Tah dah! Cheap, easy and fast!!!


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Meatless Monday: Homemade Veggie Steaks

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First of all – DO YOU LIKE MY NEW DINNERWARE?!?! Special thanks to my cousin Megan for my birthday presents and Amazon for building relationships across the globe with their delivery service! This is the Corelle Living Ware 16-pc dinnerware set, a service for 4 which includes dinner plates, side plates, soup bowls and 4 blue mugs. I love it! I think the white plates show off the food better. T bought those green stoneware because he liked that they were unusual. The colour and shape didn’t quite work for what I was trying to do with taking picture of my food though… We do still use them on a daily basis. This Corelle set is, for now, just for show. Heehee…

Back to today’s recipe – Homemade Veggie Steaks. They were modified from several meatloaf recipes, then I was inspired by T’s Aunt K who made us these yummy veggie burgers while we were in New York. Aunt K said that she used to follow a recipe and the base is essentially beans but she now dumps whatever leftovers in the hand-shaped patties and they’re delish! So because I didn’t have a meatloaf pan or any kind of baking pan, I hand shaped them. Also, I had extra ingredients in the refrigerator which I incorporated into this dish (I’ve listed them as optional below but feel free to add your own extras for your own flavour).

You will never feel left out when your friends and family are tucking into their juicy steaks again. While I do love salads, I think there’s no challenge in being vegetarian when you’re always eating salads (does that make sense?). Do enjoy my Meatless Meatloaf Veggie Patty in a Hurry Homemade Veggie Steaks!

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Homemade Veggie Steaks

Serves 4 (or 2 famished souls. Prep time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 45 minutes.

2 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1/2 medium onion diced

1 cup shredded mozzarella (any shredded cheese will do just as well)

2 slices of toasted bread ends (crushed to make bread crumbs)

1 cup finely chopped mushrooms

2 large potatoes – peeled, boiled and mashed to chunky pieces

1 cup mashed silken tofu (optional)

1/2 cup carrots (optional)

Finely sliced spring onions (optional)

1 tablespoon of butter

1 teaspoon olive oil (or some butter to grease the baking pan)

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoon mustard

4 tablespoon tomato past/pasta sauce/ketchup

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350degF

2. Mix all ingredients together except sugar, mustard & tomato paste (this is more textured and flavourful compared to ketchup).

3. Split the mixture into 4 equal parts

4. Roll each part into a ball and press down on a lightly greased pan to form a patty. (Just rub some butter or drizzle olive oil to grease the pan.)

5. Slide into the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes then flip over and bake for another 15 minutes. (Mine fell apart at the sides but it doesn’t have to be perfect).

6. Mix tomato paste, mustard and brown sugar in a separate bowl while waiting. (Microwave for 1 min to heat sauce just before serving.)

7. Remove patties from oven and pour some sauce over each patty upon serving.

I think if you make the patties smaller, they can be considered a side dish rather than eating it like a steak. I’m trying to figure out how to modify this recipe further so that they can be grilled for burgers! Any ideas? Please share!


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Outpost Cafe in Oak Hills, California

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Last Saturday while driving through the Mojave desert from Las Vegas to Carlsbad, California, we chanced upon the OUTPOST CAFE and made a pitstop for lunch. We had earlier seen a sign for Franky’s Diner in Victorville but were disappointed to see it all boarded up. I love our roadtrip adventures and eating is such a life’s pleasure. These truckers or roadside diners are as much the highlight of the trip for me, as it is seeing Max the Maximum Dog (who is now ready to come home).

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T and I have previously been to 2 other diners (both in Yermo) and I wrote about them too. Peggy Sue’s and Penny’s Diner were 50s style diners and were basically situated just across the road from each other. We drove quite a while from Las Vegas before we hit the Outpost Cafe and it really didn’t seem like much from the outside. I was so glad we stopped because I was virtually famished and this is the first cowboy-themed diner that we visited. T loved the wagon wheel chandelier and the iron cast finish on the counter seats, while I just wandered around taking pictures of the decor in the entire place. The toilets were spacious and clean. There were many different types of seating – including outdoors, and there was a good selection of food (even for us vegetarians).

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T and I spent under USD35 (including a 20% cash tip) for my breakfast burrito, his Karma veggie burger and fries, our 2 refillable Cokes and a shared slice of Red Velvet Cake. That was not bad in my books. While T thought the patty in his burger and the cakes were “store bought”, I thought the redeeming factor was the small-town feel and their decor! I would definitely love to be back to see what other veggie-friendly options they have.

Ambience 4/5

Food 3.5/5

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OUTPOST CAFE

8685 US Highway 395

Oak Hills, California 92344

Phone: (760) 949 0808

Facebook Page: facebook.com/OutpostCafe

Twitter: @OutpostCafe


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Meatless Monday: Cucumber & Cheese Toasty

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Before you roll your eyes and go -” WHAT?! I don’t need a recipe for making a sandwich!! This post is a waste of my time!”, let me first explain that I didn’t set out to teach people how to cook and this isn’t really a food blog. I just want to point out that there are various ways you can go meat-free on Mondays without thinking that it’s just salad or rabbit food. Maybe in the next post, I’ll tell you to go have milk and cereal for breakfast because it’s meatless (and hence tah dah… one meat-free meal in the day, two more to go!).

So anyway, I wanted to actually call this Cucumber Sandwich #1 and then go on to show you how many yummy different ways you can put thin crunchy slices of cool cucumber between the bread of your choice and eat a cucumber sandwich everyday for 5 days in a row without being sick. But to begin with I thought I’d just be a little more explicit in the title – this “recipe” has cucumber and cheese and toasted slices of bread. Maybe in the comments you’ll share with me your method for making the yummiest cucumber sandwiches YOU have ever eaten, so I don’t have to put up another one.

But before anything else, I would like to dedicate this post to 3 special people I love so much – Gina Ang who made some really yummy cucumber sandwiches so that this vegetarian was catered at Mylene Fong’s house party; Pearlyn Yong who was genuinely quite sad for me because I only had veggies in my sandwich after I quit the flesh and stopped eating yummy lunch meat we used to share; and my darling T who thinks that anything with cucumber in it “naturally tastes healthier”.

There are many ways to make a good cucumber sandwich – invariably though, there are 3 golden rules:

  1. Always cut off the crusts of the bread
  2. Always skin the cucumber and cut into 0.5cm or slightly thinner.
  3. Always use butter

I have no idea why but it’s true. You can add mint and cream cheese, you can use white bread, you can skip toasting the bread, but the 3 golden rules make for the best cucumber sandwiches.

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Cucumber & Cheese Toasty
Serves 1. Preparation Time: 3 minutes. Cook time: 2 minutes.
Cucumber
4 slices of bread
Salted butter
Low-fat mayonaise
2 slices cheddar cheese
Method:
1. Toast your bread lightly and trim off crust.
2. Peel off the skin of your cucumber and slice thinly at an angle.
3. Spread mayo over your toast and put cheese on top of that slice.
4. Put cucumber slices next to the buttered side of another slice of toast. (Cucumber must always be next to the butter.)
5. Cut into triangles and serve.
And that’s how you make a very simple meat-free meal for breakfast or tea! It doesn’t have to be expensive, it doesn’t have to be complicated.


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Meatless Monday: Tofu Omelette

This is a power protein dish – to me.

20130918-092443.jpgIt’s not everyday that I feed T so much for breakfast – we usually have soy milk, cereal and yoghurt. But because I was giving him less for lunch on this particular day, I thought I should help him load up a little bit more. Also, we had a conversation a few days ago about vegetarians getting enough protein fuel through different foods. He’s a big guy and he thinks he hasn’t been eating enough protein for his weight.

So anyway, if you don’t eat meat, what are your sources of vegetarian protein? Not all protein need to be from animal flesh. Did you know that whole grains like quinoa, whole grain bread and brown rice are great for protein. Also, beans, nuts, soy, nuts and eggs!

This high protein recipe for tofu omelette is quick and easy to make. I served it with a side of steamed spinach and a grilled cheese sandwich for a power-packed breakfast! You can eat it any time of the day too!

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Tofu Omelette

Serves 1. Prep Time: 2 minutes. Cooking time: 5 minutes.

2 large eggs

3 tablespoons worth of chopped spring onions

1 tablespoon of vegetarian oyster sauce (mushroom flavoured)

1 cup of mashed silken tofu (about half a normal brick and mashed crudely with a fork)

1 tablespoon of cooking oil (or a small pat of butter)

Method:

1. Mix oyster sauce, 2 tablespoons of chopped spring onions and 2 large eggs in a bowl.

2. Heat up cooking oil in pan.

3. Pour egg mixture into pan and turn heat up on high.

4. Spread the mashed tofu over the egg mixture immediately.

5. Take a lid and cover your pan. Then turn heat down to medium for 30 seconds.

6. When the edges cook and become firm (you can test by trying to lift the omelette), fold the omelette in half (some of the tofu will spill but it doesn’t matter).

7. Turn off the heat and cover your pan with a lid for 1 minute.

8. Serve hot with a sprinkle of the remaining chopped spring onions.

TAH DAH!!! Easy peasy!!!

If you only eat egg whites (that’s where most of the protein come from anyway), then instead of 2 large eggs, use 3 egg whites. Feel free to add pepper to taste but I don’t think salt is necessary as the oyster sauce is quite salty as it is.


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Meatless Monday: Painless Potato Au Gratin

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How are your Mondays coming along? It’s so easy to go meat-free even if you can’t give up your steaks, fried chicken or bacon. Today’s recipe is another one using potato because it’s one of T’s favourite things to eat. He’s quite easy to cook for but strangely enough, he’s not a salad-loving vegetarian, so I have to find interesting ways to pair veggies with his meals to ensure he gets enough fresh greens in his diet. Anyway, this is a new recipe. I usually make a cheat Au Gratin with mashed potato instead and when he was in New York, he mentioned that his Aunt’s Potato Au Gratin was possibly the best he’s eaten… so I thought I’d try my hand at making one. I found 3 different recipes and I combined them through a combination of – what the heck do I have in my kitchen and what method is the fastest to make? It worked!!

This Painless Potato Au Gratin recipe serves up a really crispy hard shell top of cheese; a gooey cheesy middle mixed with the natural sweetness of the onions; ending right at the bottom with flaky and fluffy potato slices. I love food with different textures. Maybe you would too?

Painless Potato Au Gratin

Serves 4 (or 2 very greedy people). Prep Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 1 hour.

3 large baking potatoes

1/2 cup diced onion

2 1/2 tablespoon butter

1 cup milk

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar

1 cup bread crumbs

Method:

1. Pre-heat oven to 400degF.

2. Scrub potatoes well and rinse. Do not peel.

3. Cut potatoes into 1/4 thick slices (I can never get them even but who cares).

4. Layer 1 1/2 potatoes worth of the slices in the baking pan.

5. Pour 1 cup of milk over the potatoes already in the pan.

6. Melt about 1/2 tablespoon of butter and brown the diced onions.

7. Sprinkle the browned diced onions over the first layer of the potatoes.

8. Layer the rest of the potato slices and spread 2 tablespoons of butter over them (you can just drop dollops all over).

9. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the potatoes, then the breadcrumbs and lastly the cheddar. Make sure to cover the surface well.

10. Put the baking pan in the middle rack and bake for 45 minutes.

11. Remove from oven and let cool for 2 minutes before serving!
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Meatless Monday: Easy Rustic Corn Cakes

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I love the taste of meat so much and I crave junk food all the time. I miss chicken nuggets, I miss bacon, I miss deep fried chicken wings and the bad stuff. I would care less about them being unhealthy (broiled chicken breasts are not my thing ever) if they weren’t made of animal. Sometimes I do think that someday I might just cave in and give in to my meat cravings. For now, food like these thai-style corn cakes fill the void and hits the spot. I swear it’s just the grease and texture I miss – what is chicken nuggets made of anyway (okay, let’s not go there… yith!).

This recipe is something I modified from what I observed from my father’s sister, Auntie Mary. I can’t remember what she was battering but the essence of the method can be applied to anything you want to deep-fry. I was so impressed with how she whipped it all up in a matter of minutes that I secretly vowed to be the kind of hostess who has a fully stocked pantry where I can easily pick ingredients and whip up a snack or meal for surprise guests.

If I can do it, so can you!

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Easy Rustic Corn Cakes

Serves 4. Prep Time: 5 minutes. Cooking time: 15 minutes.

450g whole corn kernels

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 large egg

Cooking oil

Method:

1. Heat your deep fryer or frying pan with enough cooking oil for deep frying – the amount of oil obviously depends on the type or size of vessel you’re using.

2. Mix flour, egg, salt, pepper, basil, curry powder and corn kernels together in a large mixing bowl. Be sure to mix, flip, turn, fold – do whatever you need to mix it up real well.

3. Once oil is hot, scoop a tablespoonful of the corn mixture and drop it gently into the vat of hot oil. You can and should do several simultaneously if there’s enough space in your cooking vessel.

4. Turn over the corn cake when it starts to turn light brown.

5. Remove each corn cake quickly and allow to cool/drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

6. Repeat until all the mixture is used up.

7. Serve with sweet Thai chili sauce, ketchup or salsa! TAH DAH!

There is enough in this recipe for 4 people as a side dish or snack (I strongly recommend this… oh yum!). And it’d also be perfect for 2 when served with steamed jasmine rice!

ENJOY!!

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Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner in Yermo, California

As I write this post, we’re preparing to leave our house to visit Max in Calsbad, California. The nurses have been really nice and sending us email updates with photos or calling to tell us what he’s up to. They told us that Max is very happy whenever they take him out of the kennel for walks. Max is such a sweetie pie and he does love having a human friend around all the time. Anyway, on Monday on our drive home to Las Vegas, we dropped by this diner for dinner.

I saw signs for Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner maybe about 1 hour or 45 minutes before we were even near Yermo, California. The drive through the desert is quite a boring one, if you can imagine a vast expanse of rocks, hills and you know, sky. While the scenery was beautiful, it was same-y after about an hour. Signs for the outlet shopping malls and Peggy Sue’s piqued my interests and perked me up. T said we should go to Peggy Sue’s on our way back, and that was possibly the only thing that distracted me from the sadness of leaving Max behind at the hospital for radiation.

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We arrived at about 6.30pm and it was just about getting dark. The entrance was designed and painted to look like an old jukebox. It was a sight to behold because I love kitsch and colours (and also, the surrounding area was basically just dirt tracks and nothing else). Inside, it was kitsch, movie memorabilia and 50s themed everything I’ve ever seen in movies or old Archie comics! There were many tables and we had our pick of seats before the dinner crowd came in about half an hour later.

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I must say though, their mannequins scared me. There was one dressed as Elvis with a guitar in hand, one woman (I’m not sure if she was supposed to be a character or just a generic person styled in a 50s outfit and gloves) sitting at the bar counter and several others that spooked me when I saw them from the corner of my eye. Other than the dining area, they also had a store in one wing that sold almost everything kitschy – t-shirts, weird games, snacks, candy, postcards, mugs, keychains etc.
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T ordered a veggie burger that came with several choices of sides – he had potato salad and curly fries (is this 50s?). Also, a root beer. I had the deep fried dill pickles (super yum!!!!!) with ranch dressing dip, onion rings (which T said was really good. It’s pretty good to me, but nothing special) and also a rather non-descript corn bread (because other than the corn muffins at Kenny Roger’s, I’ve never had others and T has asked if I could make them). I also had an old fashioned ice cream soda (vanilla of course), just like they had in the old Archie comics (the 50s themed ones, not the updated ones I grew up with in the 80s). While I was full to almost the brim, T still wanted dessert and he ordered a huge-ass chocolate malt ice cream thing with Whoppers for about USD5.

All in all, dinner was so-so.  We paid under USD35 including a 20% cash tip. The food was not bad but I wouldn’t come here just to eat. I love the kitsch and the 50s theme. Even the waitresses had pink/mint green 50s style uniforms! I’d say food 3/5 and ambience 4/5. This was fun though and I can’t wait to check out other roadside diners in future!

Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner

Open Daily 6:00am-10:00pm

35654 Yermo Road

Yermo, CA 92398

Phone: (760) 254-3370


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Meatless Monday: Easy Roasted Potatoes

20130830-192509.jpgI love potatoes but T loves them even more than I do. I have been trying to create different ways of cooking potato at home. I love that they are a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, copper, potassium, manganese and dietary fibre. Unfortunately, potatoes have a bad rep for being fattening and unhealthy because the most popular ways of eating them are usually in the form of french fries and chips. My Roasted Potatoes recipe, I feel, is healthy and possibly low calorie, as long as you don’t load it up with fattening condiments like sour cream or bacon bits.

You can pretty much roast other vegetables with the same seasoning and method too! Think carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, brussel sprouts, cauliflower…

Easy Roasted Potatoes

Serves 2. Prep time: 15 min. Cooking time: 60 mins (most of which you can relax)

3 medium-sized potatoes

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon ground pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Method:

1. Peel potatoes then parboil for 10 minutes in boiling water (add salt to water). (This step makes it crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside)

2. Set aside to cool.

3. Preheat oven to 400f.

3. Cut cooled potatoes into quarters.

4. Place in mixing bowl and toss with garlic, rosemary, pepper, brown sugar and olive oil.

5. Transfer to sheet pan and spread them out.

6. Roast for 45 minutes to 1hour. Flip twice during cooking to ensure you get more browned crispy bits.

6. Remove from oven and serve hot.

20130830-192520.jpgI served mine as a side dish to the stir-fried green beans (from last week’s recipe) and rice. For some reason, T didn’t quite believe that I made up the recipe myself from the ingredients I found in the pantry. He said he loved them as much as those store-bought, pre-seasoned ones he got for more than twice the price of what we paid for the ingredients. I still think it’s a fluke and with me, my cooking is still a hit and miss. I’m sharing this recipe because it’s a hit with T and I hope it will be with you too!

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